$148 million more debt
Oakland Needs Peaceful Streets, Not a Palace
While Oakland residents suffer increased robberies, auto thefts, and open drug dealing, the city council has a different priority. The councilmembers want Measure N, a $148 million bond issue to build a palace library downtown.
Outrageous cost: An architect gave the City a $95 million estimate for the palace. Deducting several million for furnishings, the tab works out to $733 per square foot. If you rebuilt your modest house of 1,500 square feet at the same rate, it would set you back more than $1 million, excluding land expense. (Feasibility study, Group 4 Architecture Research + Planning, Inc., June 2006)
Adds to heavy debt load: The proposed bond issue would be repaid by taxpayers, not business revenues. Already, the City has more than $1 billion of outstanding debt. Paying interest and principal eats up a significant chunk of the City budget – $112 million this fiscal year. But councilmembers are ready to issue even more bonds, apparently hypnotized by "champagne wishes and caviar dreams." (Robin Leach)
Secret plans: No one can trust councilmembers about what the library project would include. Measure DD was a bond issue for a series of Lake Merritt projects. Only after it passed did the City reveal that it would chop down hundreds of trees.
Selling off current library: The council has told voters and taxpayers only half the story, the palace part. What about the existing main library, which occupies a city block at Oak and 14th Streets? A report to the City suggests selling the property. It reads:
Sale of Existing Main Library
Up to $15M
County or other buyer – reuse and convert to office, housing or other uses
(March 7, 2006 progress report to council from Group 4)
Is this privatizing of public property? Or will we be hit again, as county taxpayers, for a second project?
The councilmembers, except for De La Fuente who voted no and Brooks who abstained, are fixated on a Taj Mahal at Kaiser Center. Sure, that would be nice. So would a large enclosed and air-conditioned municipal swimming pool. A skating rink would be nice, too; oh, we forgot, the City already has one, still operating at a loss.
Public Safety Needs More Than Lip Service
Where do you spend more time – at your home or at the library? Oakland does not have peaceful streets, not in Maxwell Park, the Dimond district, the Laurel, etc. The residents of Grand Lake, Rockridge, and even Montclair have suffered armed robberies that they thought happened only in other neighborhoods.
In the Dimond district, the manager of the Safeway store could not get police response for 45 minutes when a gang overwhelmed the security guard and terrorized shoppers. The Dimond branch library sits across the street from the Safeway – and we need safety on Fruitvale Avenue before we need a palace library downtown.
From 1994 to 2005 the council added 357 positions to the total City budget – but the number of police wound up where it started, just around 700. A palace library would require additional staff. Why should we increase library staffing while we have only half a police department in comparison to Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis and most other major cities?
The first job of city government is to ensure peaceful streets. The police department is the responsibility of the city, not the school district, not the county, not the state. We pay enough taxes for public safety, but we do not get it. The council's bond measure is the wrong use of our money at the wrong time.
We need a solid plan and commitment to bring Oakland up to 1,100 police officers. Until the councilmembers take care of job one, we must tell them, put your dreams of a palace library away for the future. On Nov. 7, 2006...
Measure N – Vote NO on the palace library bonds!
– July 20 2006